Planning the perfect patriotic picnic

Jun 30, 2011 at 5:49 p.m. ET

While the summer season is peppered with festive holidays, there is no reason to limit your red, white and blue festivities to three weekends out of the year. Between Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day there are plenty of reasons to break out the red, white and blue and celebrate the United States. Whether you're celebrating on an actual holiday or stealing a summer afternoon to celebrate the summer sun, get in touch with your patriotic side.

Fourth of July party

Set the scene. Instead of buying tacky July 4th decorations that you'll only use once, pick a theme that you can use again. This year, retro decorations and table settings are all the rage so you can adorn your table with items you'll actually use. Sip your cocktails or lemonade with festive stripey straws from Jack & Lulu. Serve your favorite iced tea or sangria in a classic Mason Jar Drink Dispenser that lends traditional American style to any table. If your planning a red, white and blue, pick up a few sets of festive melamine plates from Pottery Barn, so you can use them again and again - regardless of whether or not it's a national holiday.

Opt for decor that pulls double duty. Instead of decorating your patio or picnic table with festive flowers, opt for something more budget-friendly. "Although fresh flowers are always a great addition to any buffet, for a more cost effective alternative use fresh fruit such as pineapple, melon and plums," said premier New York caterer and Founder of Between the Bread, Ricky Eisen. "Find a tree bark as the anchor to the center of the table, add twigs and leafy branches from the garden and you can have a great centerpiece, most of which can be eaten later."

Plan your party menu. There are a few places you want to be over any weekend during the summer: a beach, a pool, a park or maybe a combination of the three. One place you probably don't want to be: the grocery store. Plan your party menu about a week in advance so that you can spread your errands over the course of the week and not spend one dreaded Saturday morning market-hopping. Plus, you can do any baking or food prep the day before your party or picnic so that you'll only need to set foot in your kitchen is to refill the sangria.

Remember what it's all about. The best way to show your patriotism isn't to deck the halls in red, white and blue. Honor the soldiers that are serving our country by asking your guests to bring one item to your party to include in a care package to a soldier. You can either work with an organization like Operation USO Care Package or ask a friend or relative for the address of someone they know. Pro tip: post offices offer reduced rates for shipping to US Military.

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